Even before the scourge of COVID-19 added a myriad of complex challenges and hardships to the role of Australian educators, numerous reports found that the administrative, and human, pressures of the job were enormous.
However, a new report has found that the majority of Australian lower secondary teachers reported being satisfied with their profession, work environment, terms of employment and salary prior to COVID-19.
The study, by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) analysed data from the latest OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) of Year 7-10 teachers, which was conducted in 2018.
More than 90% of teachers in Australia and across the OECD on average reported being satisfied with their job and enjoying working in their school, while 88% agreed that the advantages of being a teacher clearly outweigh the disadvantages, compared to the OECD average of 76%.
The report also found that 83% of Australian teachers said that they would still choose to work as a teacher if given the choice again, compared to an OECD average of 76%.
While more than 80% of teachers recommended their current school as a good place to work, 25% of Australian teachers and 20% of teachers on average across the OECD reported that they would like to change to another school if that were possible.
This was particularly the case for teachers in schools with high concentrations of socioeconomically disadvantaged students, where 35% indicated they wanted to change schools compared to 23% of those in schools with less disadvantage.
“A relatively large proportion of the variance in Australian teachers’ satisfaction with their current work environment is accounted for by school factors,” ACER Deputy CEO (Research), Dr Sue Thomson, said.
“The OECD suggests that countries in this situation might find it more effective to intervene at the school level, rather than at the teacher level.”
TALIS also reveals that around two-thirds of Australian lower secondary teachers report being satisfied with their salary, compared to less than half across the OECD on average.
Australian teachers also reported higher rates of satisfaction with other terms of their employment, such as their work schedule and employment benefits, compared to the OECD average.
Teacher satisfaction with salaries and other employment terms was lower in publicly managed schools than in privately managed schools, both in Australia and across the OECD on average.
Salary satisfaction was also lower among Australian teachers in schools with high concentrations of disadvantaged or immigrant students.
Australian teachers working part-time were slightly less likely to report being satisfied with their employment terms, while teachers who were able to participate in school governance were more than twice as likely to report being satisfied.
“Our analysis suggests teachers’ satisfaction with their terms of employment is more strongly associated with the support they receive for continuous professional development and their participation in the governance of the school than it is with specific contractual arrangements such as fixed-term or part-time work,” Dr Thomson said.
“This is an important consideration for teacher retention strategies, as the data also confirm that teachers who are satisfied with their employment terms are more likely to report wanting to continue working as teachers, and to do so in the same school.”
Dr Thomson said since these data were collected, the context in which teachers and school leaders work has changed completely.
“It is unknown the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic will affect teacher satisfaction, or whether the experience of remote learning will help raise the community standing of teachers and their perception of their value within the community”.